GAMA Celebrates 12th Year of Creating Guitar Teachers, Players
|GAMA Teaching Guitar Workshop: By the NumbersStats from a recent GAMA Survey of teachers who participated in the Workshop program.
“I love it,” beams Laura Schisler, standing outside a music classroom at a Kirkwood, Missouri community college. “I can’t believe all you get for just $100! It’s such a great program.”
For the money, what this local high school music teacher gets is a classical-style guitar, books, and accessories. Most important, she gets an intense one-week course that takes the music educator from zero experience guitar teacher competence in a mere four days.
It’s the Teaching Guitar workshop, and it’s about educating the educators, and then having them return to their schools and start guitar programs. A look at the numbers show it continues to be a big hit with those who participate [see sidebar].
Sponsored by the Guitar & Accessories Marketing Association (GAMA), in partnership with NAMM and the MENC: National Association for Music Education, the program is celebrating its 12th year in 2007. “It started with just three workshops training 75 teachers,” recalls GAMA executive director Rob Sulkow. “This year we are holding nine workshops for over 230 teachers. There are seven Level I workshops and two Level II workshops.”
Over 2,000 teachers have participated since 1996, and Sulkow says, on average, each goes on to teach guitar to 80 to 100 kids a year. (It’s not constantly accelerating at that rate, however. Sulkow points out that some teachers change schools or jobs altogether. But if GAMA-certified teachers teach for just three years, that totals about 600,000 guitar-buying prospects nationally.)
“A Tidal Wave”
“The purpose is to offer enough guitar education to the school music educator so that he or she can start or enhance a school guitar program,” says Rob Goldsmith. “It’s win-win for everybody.” Goldsmith and Glen McCarthy were the two teachers at the Missouri session. They teach tag-team style, switching off every hour and thus are able to bombard the teachers with information.
While it’s “just” beginning guitar, GAMA sees fit to bring in exceptionally experienced teachers. Goldsmith holds a master’s in guitar, and writes and edits guitar instruction materials for Mel Bay. He’s currently a music educator at Sig Rogich Middle School in Las Vegas.
“Every day at the session is like Christmas,” Goldsmith says. “They get magazines, and new accessories. They also get three graduate credits from Pittsburgh-based Duquesne University.” A typical session has 25 to 30 teachers, and usually only about 50% are local; the rest travel to be part of it. At this session, one came as far as from the Philippines.
“It’s a very intense class. What normally takes a year we teach in four days, Goldsmith continues. “The teachers are jammed full of knowledge when we’re done with them. We don’t expect them to do everything we show them, but we hope they go home and work on the skills. Exposing them to all the books and publications available to them is important, too.”
Goldsmith has seen the results himself and says guitar players are being created:
“This isn’t a ripple effect, it’s a tidal wave! And with guitar classes, there is no recruiting. You put a sign up that says guitar class is beginning, and kids sign up.” He adds that any band or orchestra educators need not be threatened by launching a guitar program in their school. “The students attracted to guitar are different from those attracted to other music classes,” he points out. “My middle school is a great example: We have 150-160 guitar students every day in seven classes, but also have completely full band, orchestra, and choirs programs.”
|Current Sponsors of GAMA/NAMM/MENC’s Teacher Guitar Workshops
The other GAMA instructor, Glen McCarthy, has been involved with GAMA for four years. Prior to that, for 30 years he taught guitar in schools in Virginia, including George Mason University. He has been a pioneer in guitar classroom teaching techniques, and has been honored by GAMA for his innovative guitar programs.
“I’m glad I get to do this,” he says. “It’s really fun working with teachers and providing insights from my years of teaching. It’s like a good comedian who has certain jokes that always work. Good guitar instructors have certain tricks, and the better tricks involve making it fun for the students while they are learning. It’s rewarding being able to pass those things along to others.
“I have to say I just think this is such a great marriage between the organizations and the manufacturers. If a teacher gets 20 students, that turns into 20 guitars, 20 capos, 20 string packs[that are bought]. Later on it’s 20 electric guitars and amps. By the time they were seniors, many of the kids in my high school programs ended up buying better amps than I had! If you can plant the seeds, the kids will keep investing in guitars.”
Wanted: Local Retailers Support
Nearly 50 industry companies are supporting and funding the GAMA workshops.
“It’s a great grassroots promotion for a company’s brand because those teachers return to their schools and teach their students using the products they picked up at the workshops — talk about viral marketing!” Sulkow says. “Our publisher members send books to accommodate up to 250 teachers. The accessory members send straps, picks, strings, tuners, and so on for all attending teachers as well. And our guitar manufacturers provide guitars worth about $500 to every teacher. We’ve received contributions of as many as 45 guitars from a single manufacturer in the past.”
Additional support comes from the Alliance of Independent Music Merchants (AIMM), the 52-member indy dealer group, Guitar Center, and Sam Ash Music.
“The workshops continue to grow and become defined. We have increased our efforts to gather information and track the teachers as well as adding a Level II for teachers who want more skills. We look forward to expanding further, perhaps beyond the borders of the United States.
“We still need the individual dealers to come on board and help us make more music makers, adds Sulkow. “The last step in the equation is having a music retailer support their local teacher’s guitar program. They can help make the programs last, helping to create more music makers and create more revenue for the industry. In addition, GAMA needs more manufacturers to participate by joining the association.”
As for Laura Schuler, the teacher hopes to incorporate the guitar in a music appreciation class she teaches. “They are bored with recorders, and you can only talk about musicals so much,” she laughs. But she faces a budget challenge: this particular class has none. She does have access to 13 of the school’s guitars, and hopes if she’s successful, it can at some point blossom into a full-blown guitar program.
And, thanks to the GAMA workshops, she’s far from being the only one.